Saltwater fishing takes place in marine habitats such as open oceans, ocean depths, coral reefs, shallow seas, seashores and estuaries. Ocean fishing is a particularly popular practice because 98 percent of all water on Earth consists of oceans and seas. Thus, various saltwater fishing techniques have been developed and perfected in different regions around the world. For example, angling, spearfishing and net techniques are particularly popular in saltwater environments.

Fishermen must also be mindful of the saltwater fishing regulations that aim to protect and recover endangered species. In addition, these policies govern over the issuance of saltwater fishing licenses to anglers. To learn more about saltwater fishing basics, such as the proper equipment, baits and boats that should be used in these habitats, read the sections below.

What is saltwater fishing?

Piers, boats and seashores are among the most popular places for saltwater fishing. The biggest distinction between saltwater habitats is made according to the depth of each body of water. In general, seas are shallow areas of oceans, which significantly impacts the species of fish that inhabit the region. For example, ocean fishing allows anglers to catch most big game species of fish. Conversely, saltwater shore fishing is more apt for catching smaller species.

Furthermore, fishermen can catch saltwater fishes through angling, spearfishing, hand-gathering, net techniques. Certain fish spawn in freshwater habitats and then migrate to marine environments later in their lifetimes. Thus, these species can be categorized as both saltwater and freshwater fish. Moreover, various other marine species can be found in saltwater environments, such as sponges, jellies, corals, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians and marine mammals.

What are the types of saltwater habitats?

Saltwater fishing takes place in several bodies of water of different depths. Among them, consider these common habitats:

  • Shores – Saltwater shore fishing is conducted in the littoral regions that surround a marine habitat. In general, seashore fishing is optimal for angling, hand-gathering, certain types of spearfishing and fishing with animals techniques. However, because of the state of constant flux in a littoral region, shore fishing may be challenging to inexperienced anglers.
  • Seas – A sea is, by definition, the shallower part of an ocean. Furthermore, seas are rich saltwater environments composed of bony fish, sharks, turtles, squids and other marine species. Therefore, these can be fruitful habitats for spearfishing, angling and certain net techniques.
  • Oceans – Ocean fishing, as well as deep sea fishing, require deeper waters for fishing enthusiasts to explore. Oceans are well-suited for spearfishing by the way of diving, angling and most net techniques. In general, most saltwater species can be found in the depths of open oceans.
  • Estuaries – Estuaries are the transitional regions where freshwater habitats end and saltwater environments begin. Thus, an estuary can contain fish capable of surviving in both freshwater and saltwater bodies of water.
  • Coral Reefs – Saltwater fishing equipment can easily damage the delicate structure of coral reefs. Moreover, too much human contact can also destroy them. Therefore, despite the various species of fish they house, hand-gathering and spearfishing should be limited in coral reefs.

What fish can I catch in saltwater fishing?

The physical properties of saltwater fishes allow them to survive in open oceans, shallow seas, seashores, estuaries and coral reefs. Therefore, anglers who practice saltwater fishing typically have a high chance of catching one of the following species:

  • AmberjackAmberjack are typically found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Additionally, these fish may be classified as greater, lesser or yellowtail. In general, an amberjack is easily identifiable by its long blue-white body and large forked tail.
  • BassBass spawn in freshwater habitats, but are typically caught through saltwater fishing. As a matter of fact, this species tends to spend most of its lifetime inhabiting shallow marine environments. Generally, the size and appearance of a bass varies significantly depending on its type. Common species include striped, largemouth, yellow and white bass. As an example, a yellow bass weighs half a pound on average. Conversely, a striped bass can weigh as much as 125 pounds.
  • CatfishCatfish inhabit deep or slow-moving freshwater and saltwater habitats. Moreover, these fish can be herbivore or carnivorous. Specifically, hardhead catfish are typically found in saltwater environments.
  • Grouper – In comparison to other saltwater fishes, grouper are relatively slow swimmers. However, these fish have large mouths that allow them to swallow prey rather than bite it off. This feature is particularly helpful due to the species’ inability to chase after other fish in order to catch them.
  • Mahi-mahi – Otherwise known as dorado or dolphinfish, the mahi-mahi have vibrant blue-green backs as well as white-yellow undersides. They are commonly found in open oceans or ocean shores, and capable of reproducing themselves quickly and in large quantities.
  • Red snapperRed snapper are bottom-dwelling saltwater fishes generally found in coral reefs. This species receives its name for the distinctively red-pink pigmentation on its back. Moreover, these fish feed on crabs, sea urchins or other animals with hard shells. Therefore, they are capable of crushing shells with their strong teeth.
  • Tuna – Albacore, yellowfin, Bluefin, skipjack and bigeye tuna are among the most common species for anglers to find while saltwater fishing. In addition, a tuna is capable of maintaining a higher body temperature than the water temperature that surrounds it. Thus, this is one of the very few species that are considered “warm-blooded” fish.

What are the saltwater fishing techniques?

Several saltwater fishing techniques can be utilized to catch fish in marine habitats. For example, consider the following fishing methods:

  • Hand-gathering – This saltwater fishing technique involves the gathering of fish, crabs, scallops, clams, oysters and sea urchins by hand. Specifically, techniques such as pearl diving and noodling can be done in saltwater regions.
  • Spearfishing – Spearfishing may take place on a seashore. However, this fishing method is more closely related to different types of diving. This centuries-old technique encompasses the catching of fish by piercing through them with a speargun, trident or pike pole.
  • Angling – The most common of all saltwater fishing techniques, angling involves using a hook, line and rod. Aside from being the most popular fishing method, this is also considered the easiest technique for inexperienced anglers to learn.
  • Net techniques – Nets are generally used for fishing activities that involve the catching of big game or many fish at once. Therefore, this gear is more commonly used by competitive anglers and commercial fisheries. However, recreational fishermen also use nets on occasion.
  • Fishing with animals – Saltwater shore fishing may be assisted by animals, such as dogs or birds, which can be trained to catch fish. For instance, Portuguese water dogs and Labrador retrievers can receive training and assist fishermen in marine environments.

What are saltwater fishing tips for beginners?

Among the various saltwater fishing techniques, angling is considered to be the easiest for children and beginners to grasp. That is because operating saltwater fishing rods involves the least amount of skill and requires minimal equipment. Therefore, it is fairly simple for novice anglers to learn this method. However, because operating boats can be an added challenge, saltwater shore fishing is more recommended for beginners. The easiest saltwater fishes for beginners to catch through angling are:

  • Bass – Largemouth bass are typically enticed by several kinds of bait. For that reason, these fish are fairly easy to catch. Additionally, certain bass are not significantly heavy, making it easy for novice anglers to pull them out of the water.
  • Catfish – Catfish are considered scavengers and are enticed to feed on virtually anything that moves underwater. This characteristic favors beginners since catfish are drawn to biting several different types of baits and lures.

What are the saltwater fishing regulations?

Open oceans, shallow seas, seashores, estuaries, ocean depths and coral reefs are preserved by saltwater fishing regulations. Federal regulations are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Conversely, state-specific regulatory agencies are responsible for establishing local guidelines and issuing saltwater fishing licenses to anglers. Regulations regarding saltwater fishing vary depending on:

  • An angler’s residency – Anglers that reside in a state are typically charged standard rates for acquiring a fishing license. On the other hand, out-of-state fishermen incur higher costs. For example, California residents can obtain an annual license for $48.34, whereas out-of-state anglers must pay $130.42.
  • Types of fish – Certain saltwater fishes are subject to stricter minimum size requirements and daily bag limits due to their level of endangerment. As an example, a fisherman can only catch one greater amberjack per day in Florida. Additionally, certain species may only be caught during predetermined seasons. For instance, a red snapper fishing season is only open between the months of June and September in Alabama.
  • Types of gear – Certain states enforce different regulations based on the type of equipment used by an angler. If a particular type of saltwater fishing equipment is considered commercial gear according to state-specific guidelines, recreational fishermen must avoid using it. For example, recreational anglers in Georgia may not use seine nets longer than 20 feet.

In addition, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is responsible for fishing resources along the country’s Atlantic coast. Moreover, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) manages fishing activities along the Pacific coasts of Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

What are the best times for saltwater fishing?

Daytime saltwater fishing is generally more fruitful than catching fish during nocturnal hours. However, certain saltwater fishes feed at night due to reduced light and lower temperatures. For that reason, fishing at night can be beneficial. In addition, saltwater shore fishing at night poses the following advantages:

  • Less competition – As a general rule, fewer anglers fish at night. This can be advantageous to fishing enthusiasts who dislike crowded piers and shores.
  • Cooler temperatures – Saltwater fishing can be an unpleasantly hot activity to do during the day, particularly during summer months. Conversely, nighttime fishing allows anglers to not worry about dealing with direct sunlight.
  • Bigger catches – Certain expert anglers attest to the notion that some saltwater fishes come to the seashore at night to feed. Thus, these species are more susceptible to being caught during nocturnal hours.

What is the best saltwater fishing equipment?

Choosing the best saltwater fishing equipment depends on a few factors. For example, saltwater fishing rods such as spinning rods are generally more suitable for fishing from a boat. Conversely, sturdy saltwater fishing reels may be required for catching big game fish. During the process of choosing the proper saltwater fishing tackle, consider the following:

  • The type of fish – Larger species typically require sturdier rods, reels, lines and hooks. Moreover, large nets are best suited for catching many fish at once.
  • The type of habitat – Long-distance saltwater fishing rods are suitable for catching fish in large bodies of water such as open oceans. Conversely, spearguns and fish traps may be more effective for catching fish in shallow environments.

What boats are used for saltwater fishing?

A saltwater fishing boat must be able to withstand strong currents, tough waves and long distances. Specifically, anglers with no navigation experience should consider hiring a saltwater fishing guide who can pilot motorized vessels. The best types of boats used for saltwater fishing by recreational fishermen include:

  • Center console boats – A center console boat has an open deck that yields enough room for anglers to move around while fishing. Moreover, this boat is designed to handle large waves with ease.
  • Cuddy cabin boats – A cuddy cabin boat has a small cabin space, called “cuddy,” where anglers can spend the night. Therefore, this vessel is perfect for fishermen who would like to spend the night at sea.
  • Bay or flat boats – Despite being an optimal saltwater fishing boat, a bay or flat boat is also commonly used in freshwater habitats. However, this low-cost vessel is generally only able to navigate waters with less than two feet of depth.
  • Sport fishing boats – A sport fishing boat is a robust vessel designed for expert anglers to engage in advanced fishing activities. This type of boat is typically equipped with beds, kitchens, bathrooms and even air conditioning. Therefore, it is a well-suited vessel for multi-day fishing excursions.

What baits are used for saltwater fishing?

Various types of saltwater fishing bait can be effective, depending on each species and habitat. The most common fishing baits for saltwater environments include:

  • Live baits – In general, a live saltwater fishing bait is very effective for catching big game or hard to catch fish. Live baits may be crabs, clams, mussels, cut baits, squids or shrimps. Furthermore, crabs with a hard or soft shells are considered the very best type of bait an angler can use.
  • Lures – Certain saltwater fishes may also be enticed by artificial lures. For example, gold spoons, bucktail jigs, topwater lures, plastic flukes, twitch baits and slash baits are effective saltwater fishing lures. Moreover, artificial lures are often cost-beneficial to anglers in the long run, as they can be reused many times.

What is ocean fishing?

Ocean fishing refers to the practice of catching fish in the open ocean. This type of saltwater fishing requires motorized boats or canoes from which fishermen can angle or use nets. Drawbacks regarding this method of fishing include the behavior of tides, predatory fish and the requirement of navigation skills. Conversely, the most substantial advantage to ocean fishing is the diversity of species that can be found in open oceans. The following saltwater fishes are among the most popular:

  • Albacore
  • Amberjack
  • Blue or black marlin
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna

What is deep sea fishing?

Deep sea fishing is commonly related to saltwater fishing techniques such as spearfishing or hand-gathering. However, both of these methods require an active participation and a certain skill level from fishermen. The average depth of an ocean is 2.3 miles, but certain saltwater environments can be thousands of feet deep. In general, spearfishing techniques involve catching fish in ocean depths. Therefore, spearfishing enthusiasts must consider the following diving methods in order to catch a fish:

  • Scuba diving – A self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba) is the most efficient equipment to assist divers in deep sea fishing activities. That is because a scuba allows fishermen to reach deep distances underwater, thus improving their chances to effectively practice spearfishing.
  • Snorkeling – Divers may wear a diving mask known as a snorkel to catch saltwater fishes in ocean depths. However, because snorkels require divers to be close to the water surface, they cannot dive very deep to catch fish.
  • Freediving – This is a method of deep sea fishing that involves no breathing apparatus of any kind. Also known as breath-holding diving, freediving requires fishermen to practice hand-gathering or spearfishing while holding their breaths underwater.

What is saltwater shore fishing?

Saltwater shore fishing is a popular choice among anglers because it does require boats or any type of breathing apparatus. From a seashore, fishing enthusiasts can practice whichever saltwater fishing technique they prefer. That includes angling, spearfishing, hand-gathering, net techniques or fishing with animals. The two most common types of shorelines are:

  • Rocky shores – Rocky coastlines are often subject to the regular and harsh pounding of an ocean. Therefore, these are habitats where only strong marine species can survive. For example, crabs, mollusks and other shelled animals generally inhabit these shores.
  • Sedimentary shores – A sedimentary shore is the border of an ocean that was created by the accumulation of sand or mud. They are typically subject to less harsh ocean tides in comparison to rocky shores.

What is destructive fishing?

Certain saltwater fishing techniques can be extremely destructive to marine environments and the species that inhabit them. The techniques that are most commonly prohibited by saltwater fishing regulations include the following:

  • Bottom trawling – This practice involves the dragging of a large and heavy trawl net by boats along a seabed. As a consequence, threatened species are killed and coral reefs are destroyed. Bottom trawling is not only destructive, but it is also typically not a fruitful fishing technique. On average, 80 percent of a catch from bottom trawling consists of waste and pieces of destruction.
  • Ghost fishing – Anglers that willingly abandon or accidentally lose fishing gear at sea are guilty of ghost fishing. Abandoned saltwater fishing equipment yields many deaths due to the fact that it continues to catch, trap or entangle marine species. Thus, ghost fishing is one of the most common destructive fishing practices despite not yielding any actual catches for anglers.
  • Overfishing – Over time, the overfishing of certain species can make them extinct. To avoid extinction, endangered saltwater fishes must be protected and not caught by anglers.
  • Poison and explosives – Certain fishermen poison marine habitats with cyanide or drop dynamite underwater in an attempt to catch dead fish as they float to the surface. Besides being an irresponsible practice, these destructive fishing methods also cause damage to coral reefs and kill endangered marine species.

What are endangered saltwater fishes?

Approximately 74 species of saltwater fishes are deemed threatened or endangered according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The following species are considered to be in critical stages of endangerment in certain regions of the United States:

  • Salmon – The Chinook, chum, coho and sockeye salmon have been classified by the NOAA as being critically endangered in certain regions.
  • Grouper – The Gulf grouper species has recently been classified as being threatened species. However, an official recovery plan has yet to be drafted by the NOAA.
  • Eulachon – Despite spawning in freshwater habitats, these are fishes that spend most of their lives in saltwater habitats. According to the NOAA, this species is at critical risk of endangerment in the United States.

What are saltwater fishing rods and reels?

Among the most important pieces of angling equipment are saltwater fishing rods, which hold fishing lines and reels in place. Moreover, saltwater fishing reels allow anglers to control a line’s length and pull a bait after a fish bites. In general, reels made for saltwater are built with stronger material than freshwater varieties. That is because, out on the sea, there is typically harsh wind and a significant amount of salinity. Therefore, you will need to know how to choose a saltwater fishing rod and reel before fishing in these environments.

What is saltwater fishing clothing?

Saltwater fishing clothing must withstand the rigors and salinity of the seas, while still providing as much comfort to anglers. For that reason, modern saltwater fishing apparel brands offer a wide array of gear. For example, certain types of apparel are meant to keep fishermen cool during hot summer days. Conversely, other pieces of clothing aim to protect anglers against the biting cold, cutting winds and spraying water. Therefore, performance saltwater fishing clothing has become almost essential to modern anglers.

What are saltwater fishing electronics?

Many anglers also consider including electronic tools for saltwater fishing. These devices can help conquering the most extreme ocean conditions and locate where fish are hiding out. For example, fish finders are saltwater fishing devices that send signals to a seabed that bounce back and reveal the exact location of fish. This is valuable information to fishermen who do not know where they should cast. In general, electronic devices for saltwater fishing must work harder than freshwater varieties. That is because the same devices may only reach half as far in saltwater as in freshwater. Thus, saltwater fishing devices tend to be a little pricier in comparison to those made for freshwater.

What are saltwater fishing knots?

Saltwater fishing knots are some of the strongest knots available to anglers. That is because knots for saltwater fishing must be able to last through harsh conditions, like blowing winds and thickly salted sea. There are many types of saltwater fishing knots available to you, such as the uni, clinch and Palomar knots. In addition, if you are tying the knot yourself, be certain to make it as tight as possible.

What are saltwater fishing lines?

Oceans and seas typically also require saltwater fishing lines that can withstand strong waves. Moreover, lines for saltwater fishing must be sturdy enough to capture strong fish such as a marlin. Popular types of saltwater fishing lines include braided, fluorocarbon and monofilament lines. Specifically, braided lines are some of the strongest types on the market. Conversely, monofilament lines are well-suited for long-distance fishing.

What are saltwater fishing rigs?

Saltwater fishing rigs come in various types, but are generally built more strongly than varieties made for freshwater habitats. Fishing rigs assemble lines, hooks and sinkers together, thus being an important combination of different types of gear. Moreover, rigs for fishing in saltwater are specifically designed to catch marine species. For example, sharks and marlins have particularities that make them harder to catch than mahi mahi. In addition, long-distance fishing may require the use of leaders, which are line extensions attached to the mainline.